School board rejects contract for company with ties to superintendent

Joshua Leach and Zac Taylor, Cody Enterprise via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 10/6/21

A contract to hire an education consulting company connected to then Cody superintendent Peg Monteith was pulled from a Cody School Board agenda in early June after board members received information revealing the personal relationship.

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School board rejects contract for company with ties to superintendent


CODY — A contract to hire an education consulting company connected to then Cody superintendent Peg Monteith was pulled from a Cody School Board agenda in early June after board members received information revealing the personal relationship.

The contract worth as much as $40,000 between the Cody School District and Goble Brown & Associates was slated to go up for a vote at the Tuesday, June 1, special board meeting, but was removed from the agenda early that morning by board leadership.

Chair Brandi Nelson, speaking on behalf of the Cody School Board, said it was the third consecutive month superintendent Peg Monteith had put the contract on the preliminary agenda. Board leadership had it removed the first two times saying they wanted more information.

The contract would have hired Goble Brown to assist the district with grant writing and provide coaching for Career and Technical Education teachers in the district.

“The Goble Brown & Associates contract was included on preliminary board agendas prepared by the superintendent in April and May 2021,” a board statement reads. “Board Leadership, Chair Nelson and Vice-Chair (Stefanie) Bell, pulled the contract both months, requesting additional information. In the absence of additional information, Board Leadership then required a presentation by Mr. Goble, including input from CHS Administration and CHS Career Technical teachers, at the June 1 meeting. This presentation would have preceded Board consideration later in the meeting. However, upon receipt of additional information on May 29, the presentation and action item were both removed from the June 1 agenda by Board Leadership.”

The agenda containing the contract was released on Friday, May 28, the day before the Cody High School graduation and massive internet outage which wreaked havoc on state computer systems of all kinds, including the grade reporting system of the Cody School District. However, the internet outages did not prevent community member Tim Brus from seeing the agenda, and he had immediate misgivings about the proposed contract with Goble Brown. Brus’ wife, Patty Brus, was at the time just finishing up her final year as a longtime Cody CTE teacher.

The terms of the contract would have locked the district and company together from May 2021 to August 2022.

In a Saturday, May 29, email, Brus laid out several complaints with the process, including not opening the consultant search to the public at-large and multiple apparent conflicts-of-interest. Monteith appeared to have a personal stake in the company, and Brus alleged there was a long-standing personal relationship between Monteith and company founder Craig Goble.

“Craig Goble has been a friend of Peg Monteith’s since they did 4-H together as young teenagers,” Brus wrote in a May 29 email. “There is a pre-existing business relationship and it appeared she simply wanted to hire a friend and business partner. This LLC is less than two months old as it was formed in March of 2021.

“Please do what needs to be done and deny this type of behavior.”

The Cody Enterprise made a public records request to obtain emails related to the contract and discussion of it between when it was added to the agenda and the Tuesday meeting.

That Monday, Memorial Day, Cody School Board Chair Brandi Nelson emailed the rest of the board to say the contract and its related presentation would be removed from the agenda the next day.

Monteith abruptly retired from her position as superintendent on July 23. The news of Monteith’s retirement came less than a month before the start of the school year and about a year before her contract was set to expire. Multiple attempts to reach Monteith for comment on this story went unanswered, and she declined to comment over the summer about her resignation.

There is very little known publicly about the company, Goble Brown & Associates. As of Sept. 30, the company had neither a website nor a Facebook page. Any mentions of the company online were limited to websites that index registered businesses.

Records from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, which registers businesses in Wyoming, showed two companies were created in quick succession in March, both of which have a connection to Monteith. The first “G&B Educatiion Associates,” (misspelling included) was formed March 18 of this year. Goble and Monteith are listed as the organizers and principals of the company in the registration paperwork, with Monteith’s name listed as “Peggy Brown Monteith.” The company’s address is that of Monteith’s private residence, as listed by the Park County Assessor. This company did not have any potential contracts with the school district that the Enterprise could locate.

The second company, Goble Brown & Associates, the one that did have a potential contract with the district, was formed on March 26 of this year, eight days after the first. This company also listed Monteith’s home address as the address of the company, though Monteith herself was not on the list of organizers.

When asked why the company had the same address as Monteith, Goble told the Enterprise he used Monteith’s home address because he had not yet moved to town and it was recommended to him by a person “high up in vocational education.”

Patty Brus said CTE teachers met repeatedly with Goble in April and May to discuss CTE topics. Brus also said it felt as though Goble had already been hired for the job.

Monteith mentioned in a May 18 email that Goble “will be” providing support to the district as it further develops its CTE program to be in line with the district’s Profile of a Graduate initiative, 11 days before the contract was set to go before the school board.

“I formed the company to expand my expertise in education consulting,” Goble told the Enterprise.

Goble’s background in education consulting could not be found in online searches. His LinkedIn page lists a degree in agriculture education from Colorado State University, but for the last 18 years, the page lists him working for various financial institutions as a “Relationship Manager,” most recently for the Dutch institution Rabobank, which he worked for in Modesto, Calif. Goble said his role as a relationship manager is similar to that of a loan officer. The LinkedIn page does not list any experience working in education or with federal education grants, a key component of the services listed in the proposed contract.

Goble said in an April 20 email to the CTE staff his “preparation and background are in education, more specifically CTE at the secondary and post secondary level. I also layer in extensive experience in the business world.”

“The business world is gaining a new understanding of how vital these programs are, and that recognition filters down not only from a standards perspective but possibly more importantly, from a funding standpoint,” Goble wrote. “Of all the districts I’ve worked with, Park 6 is uniquely poised to be a shining star in this area and, to paraphrase the FFA Creed, I intend to exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

The email was sent the day after Monteith took the CTE staff and several administrators to Millstone Pizza for a meal to discuss “additional support” for the CTE programs. It is not clear what Goble’s relationship is with Park 6 or when he worked with other school districts in the past.

Even as late as July, just prior to Monteith’s resignation, Goble told the Enterprise that, “we’re still in the midst of negotiations there and I’m not in the habit of negotiating in the press.” Goble also noted that he was the sole managing member of the company.

“My approach has always been to not utilize employees, per se, but I have used analysts in the past and that’s a piece basis, so it’s a different kind of compensation structure,” he said. “There are no full-time employees.”

When Brus, the wife of the man who had alerted the school board to his misgivings about the Goble Brown contract, came back to work after Memorial Day to finish entering grades, she was surprised to find herself locked out of her school email account and be told she needed to turn in her things to Cody High School.

“Mr. (Jeremiah) Johnston said as soon as my grades were done I was to turn in my keys, turn in my computer, I was done,” Brus said, recounting her June 1 conversation with the CHS principal.

Brus had been a teacher with the district for nearly four decades, teaching a variety of CTE courses and coaching a number of sports throughout her career. She had decided to retire following the 2020-21 school year, finishing up her tenure as a teacher and the district’s Perkins Grant coordinator, a role that, among other things, had her reporting end-of-year data to the state Department of Education for CTE funding purposes in addition to reporting grades.

Brus said she was given until June 2 to finish entering her grades, a standard extension given to teachers. Her work as a Perkins coordinator, however, was supposed to continue later into June. The data entry she still had to do, a part of the funding process for all the CTE programs in the district, could not start until the following week.

On June 3, Brus filed a grievance with the school board, explaining in a letter sent to the board that whistleblower protections had been violated, and it was possible Monteith had violated board and state policies. Bringing that to the attention of the board resulted in retaliation, Brus said, including “salary reduction and loss of hours” related to the Perkins work.

“I asked about grant work I was to complete by the (Wyoming Department of Education) CTE deadline of June 15,” she wrote. “It was made clear that I was ‘done.’”

The district has a standard grievance procedure, which this grievance did not follow. The process also does not allow the filing of grievances related to employment status. Nelson responded on the afternoon of June 8 to the grievance, noting that Brus was no longer an employee of the district as of May 28, the date her contract officially expired, and therefore could not file a grievance nor could the district act on the grievance. Brus said her extra duty contract to finish data entry was only verbal at that point.

“We appreciate you taking the time to express your concerns about this matter,” Nelson wrote. “At this time, we do not intend to take any action upon your letter.”

However, Brus received an email from Monteith three hours prior to Nelson’s that appeared to grant back temporary employment so Brus could finish the data entry.

“Please consider this email a retraction of my earlier edict,” Monteith wrote. “I understand that you need time to move 38 years of stuff out of your classroom Patty, as well as helping to ensure that the CTE data are submitted correctly to the WDE. End date for all of this work is June 15th.”